• Zamboanga City security tightened

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: Police and military have tightened security in this city following two bomb explosions at a massage parlor and karaoke bar that injured a member of the police bomb squad.

    Officials said PO2 Manuel Franklin Ynid was rushed to the hospital after sustaining sharpnel wounds from the explosion inside the De Luxe Massage and Karaoke Bar along Tomas Claudio Street late Sunday.

    Ynid was inspecting the area after the first explosion when the second bomb went off and wounded him and his K-9 dog.

    The blast occurred just as security forces deployed more personnel to guard some 7,500 participants of the weeklong Boy Scouts of the Philippines Centennial Jamboree at the Zamboanga City Economic and Freeport Zone in San Ramon village.

    Police have cordoned off the blast site shortly after the explosions and forensic experts recovered pieces of electrical wiring, dry cell and shrapnel believed to be parts of the bombs left inside the bar. Traces of ammonium nitrate were also found at the scene.

    The military’s Western Min-danao Command, citing an initial report, said the explosives were concealed in a cardboard box. It was not immediately known how the bomber managed to smuggle the improvised explosives in the bar.

    Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar rushed to the area and later proceeded to the hospital to see the condition of the in-jured policeman.

    “Police and military authorities are thoroughly investigating to determine the cause and motive of the blasts that hit Deluxe Massage Parlor in Tomas Claudio Street. A member of the police bomb squad was injured while checking on the suspicious item in the area,” she said.

    Salazar also assured the safety of scouts, saying armed soldiers and policemen, backed by armored vehicles, are guarding them.

    “The public is advised to stay calm, but vigilant and report suspicious persons or bags and other items to (emergency telephones) 117 or 166. Authorities are in control of the situation, that the city, particularly the Boy Scouts of the Philippines jamboree participants are safe and sound. The blast site is over 20 kilometers away from the jamboree site in Ecozone,” she said.

    Officials could not say if the twin explosions were the handiwork of Abu Sayyaf militants as investigation is ongoing. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

    Last month, police bomb squad also disrupted an improvised explosive abandoned at the Plaza Pershing also in downtown Zamboanga. The explosive was hidden in a thermos that contained nails and ammonium nitrate, a banned chemical fertilizer widely used by rebels in the manufacture of homemade bombs.

    The Abu Sayyaf, blamed by authorities to the spate of bombings and killings in the southern Philippines, has recently pledged allegiance to the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

    Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said last night’s bombing could be a diversionary tactic of the Abu Sayyaf Group to distract the ongoing intensified military operations against the bandits in Sulu and Basilan.

    “We are looking into that [angle]. Hindi ko pa masabi kung yun na ba yun,” said Catapang in a news conference at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City (Metro Manila) on Monday.

    Catapang said he is planning to go back to Zamboanga because he was not yet satisfied with the security arrangements there.

    “If I will have a time, I’ll go back because I’m not yet satisfied with the security arrangements. You know Zamboanga City is [composed]of about 95 barangays. Ang naka-concentrate lang yung tropa is about 20 barangays which is in the center, so I was telling all the barangays they should be involved in maintaining the peace in Zamboanga City,” Catapang said.

    WITH FERNAN MARASIGAN

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